“So you’re going to the castle?”
I was asked this question a number of times last year, after learning I was accepted into Emerson College’s Kasteel Well program. This study abroad program allows 85 Emerson students, randomly selected through a lottery, to study in a 14th century castle in Well, a sleepy town in The Netherlands.
I would always respond with a yes. But, I wasn’t quite sure that was true. Despite this study abroad opportunity being one of the reasons I was drawn to Emerson, I thought there was a good chance I would turn it down.
At the time, for a number of personal reasons, I was considering transferring from Emerson. So, even as I was going through the motions, choosing castle classes, filling out forms, and telling everyone that, yes, I would definitely be going to the castle, it never actually felt real. Every time I told someone I was going, the thought but probably not would follow.
But, sometime in the middle of last year, things began turning around and I decided against transferring. Throughout those few months, my mental ‘probably not’ changed into a ‘well maybe’. And at some point over the summer, it became an enthusiastic ‘definitely yes’.
As my departure got closer and closer, my excitement grew, but it still didn’t feel real. It didn’t feel real as I let the deadline to withdraw from the program pass. It didn’t feel real as I went through my checklist of things I needed or looked into travel options. It didn’t feel real as I took the online test on Dutch history. It didn’t feel real as I packed my bags, as I drove up to Boston, as I weighed my bag at the UPS store and scrambled to transfer a pound of items from my checked luggage to my carry to fit the baggage weight limit. As I sat in an airport for three hours with the people I’d be living with for the next three months, none of it felt real.
I think that the moment it became real was on the plane, when a fellow student announced that you could see the northern lights. Something I’ve wanted to see all my life, I moved from my seat in the middle of the plane with a number of other students to look through one of the windows. And sure enough, there they were. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Not even on European soil yet, and I was so unbelievably happy with my decision to go on this trip.
Since then, I have only become more grateful for my change of heart. The town is gorgeous, with scenic roads that are traveled more often by bikes than cars and the nearby river Maas, which we were fortunate enough to have a boat tour of during sunset today.
The rural setting is like nothing I’ve lived in before, and I can’t get over it’s beauty and peacefulness. I fell even more in love with the area today during an early evening bike ride. I seriously love that biking is the main form of transportation here.
After all of my indecision about taking part in this program, I was expecting a really tough transition. But, while I have had some moments of anxiety, I’m settling in much more easily than I ever could have imagined. I’m excited to start classes tomorrow, to begin traveling next weekend, and to continue exploring this wonderful little town that is already starting to feel like home.